Even if a loved one agrees that they can no longer live alone, the transition to your home or assisted living will probably seem more like a loss than a new adventure—at least at first. It will ease the process if you empathize with their feelings and give them time to mourn their loss, while at the same time doing what you can to make them feel more at home in their new surroundings.
Anyone who has to downsize from their home feels like they are leaving behind a lot of their past. If your loved one is able to make informed decisions, allow them to be part of the sorting process and help to choose what to take with them, as space allows. For things they love but just can’t bring with them, take photos and put them in an album to be looked at frequently and enjoyed vicariously. Offer to store things like some seasonal decorations, clothing, and other things they will use only occasionally.
Moving to Your Home
Daytime space of their own is important when moving a loved one into your home. Try to provide at least a corner of a room with their favorite chair, a side table and lamp from their home, a TV, and a small book shelf for reading material, photos or other things they will use or look at frequently. If possible, move things around so they have natural light in their corner. Remember, Dad or Mom may have visited your home many times, but until now they’ve never had to consider it their home.
In their bedroom, use the bedding they’re used to, unless they want something new. If there is room, let them bring a dresser, a nightstand and some wall decorations from home. Be sure there is a clear path to the bathroom, with a nightlight and an easy-to-read clock. If they will need help getting up, a baby monitor can connect their room to yours.
Provide a safe outdoor space. If your loved one is a flight risk, be sure the area is fenced in. Partial sun or shade will be more comfortable than full sun. If possible, provide a chair under a tree or an umbrella. Check on them often, and don’t leave them outside for too long.
Kitchen space for their favorite snacks or drinks, especially if they are mobile enough to help themselves, could also help them to feel more at home. You will have to decide which, if any kitchen appliances they can use safely without your help. Then make sure the whole family knows the rules.
Moving to Assisted Living
If they are able, allow your loved one to tour 2-3 facilities that you feel good about and then help to make the decision, based on the one they like best. Assure them that you will help them feel more at home by decorating with as many things as possible from their home. Remind them that you will visit often. Be sure that everything you bring in has a name on it. Some facilities also require an inventory list.
Furniture: Most assisted living facilities allow residents to furnish their own apartment. Measure the space to see if what your loved one has at home will fit in the bedroom and living areas. Consider lighting and a comfortable sitting place with a favorite recliner from home. A shelf for books or favorite decorative items should come along, too. Make sure there is a clear path to the bathroom from wherever the person may be. Avoid sharp corners if possible, especially if your loved one is fall-prone.
Personal Belongings: Space will be limited, so let them help to choose the things they feel strongly about having in their new home. (Refer to it as “Home.”) Offer to store a few holiday decorations, family heirlooms and even seasonal clothing in your home, if that helps them make decisions. Changing their clothing and some decorative items with the seasons can be both fun and practical.
Bedding and Curtains: Ask Mom or Dad if they want to bring their own bedding, or if they would like to have something new. If you’ve had to downsize their bed, new bedding might be mandatory. Be sure to have extra sets, so that sheets can be changed as needed, while others are in the laundry. If the facility allows it, you might want to hang some familiar curtains to make a room feel homier.
Appliances: Bring their TV from home, if it fits. Then they won’t have to learn to operate something new. Music can be important to both mood and memory. Bring whatever they are familiar with, so they can have music they like in the background. If they use a computer or laptop, a desk and a comfortable chair will give them a great way to occupy their time and keep up with the outside world. Don’t forget Dad’s electric razor or Mom’s blow dryer.
Supplies: It will be up to you to provide things like toiletries and grooming equipment, paper goods, continence products, utensils/plates/glasses if any food will be eaten in the room, etc. Make a list of things that will have to be replenished regularly, in order to make shopping trips easier and timely.
In-house Activities: Assisted Living facilities usually have a wide variety of activities and services in-house. The staff will do a good job of letting your loved one know what’s available, but don’t put too much pressure on him or her to participate, at least at first. Give them time to get to know the routine and some of the other people who live and work there. Sometimes attending activities with them will encourage trying something new. Making appointments for them with the in-house podiatrist or hair salon will make that less complicated.
Care Plan: We thought Dad could administer his own medications, but we soon found that even if we filled his pill boxes, he forgot to take them. Make a list of the services the facility offers and be sure they have a care plan that meets your needs. If your loved one needs more assistance than they can provide—my Dad needed insulin shots—Dakota Home Care offers services within the assisted living community, such as medication reminders, assistance with activities of daily living, companion care, or any skilled nursing services not offered by assisted living. For any questions you may have regarding services or to schedule a free consultation, please call (701)663-5373.